A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that he and hundreds of other people were ordered to carry their identity cards in their mouths when they came up to a road block as they fled violence in their area just after the 2007 elections.
Witness 535 described to the court on Friday that the road block was made up of refrigerators, stones, and tires and was being controlled by men from the Luo and Luhya ethnic groups. He said that from his locality alone he estimated they were more than 1,000 who passed through this road block, which was on the way to Eldoret town in western Kenya. He said they passed only after the people who had put up the road block searched their pockets and took money, wallets, and mobile phones.
Witness 535 was testifying for the second day in the trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang that resumed on Thursday. The trial had been on recess since November 8. On Friday, the witness described seeing two individuals being beaten in two separate attacks as he and others made their way to Eldoret.
The first attack he said he witnessed as he and others fled attackers who were chasing them. This was in the locality he lived in. Witness 535 did not say in open court what the locality was because naming it in public could make it easy to identify him. He was testifying under the same protective measures that previous witnesses testified under. This included using numbers to identify people and places that could be easily used to identify a witness.
In his description of the first attack, Witness 535 said that as they ran away, one of the men with them fell because he was drunk. He said the attackers closed in on the fallen man and stoned him to death. The witness said when they realized what was happening, they tried to go help the fallen man, but the attackers threw stones at them and shot arrows at them to stop them from getting close. He said the man who was stoned to death was a Kikuyu and his attackers were Kalenjin.
He said that some time later they heard someone crying for help. He said this was when they were approaching the road that eventually leads to Uganda and commonly referred to as Uganda road. He said he and other men went to find out what was happening and they found a man being attacked. Witness 535 that the man had fired shots in the air and as he tried to run away, he fell. He said the attackers were Kalenjin and they took away the man’s gun. He said they beat the man with the weapons they had: clubs, machetes, bows and arrows. He said they eventually left him and someone was able to take the man to hospital.
On Thursday, Witness 535 was asked by prosecution trial lawyer Adebowale Omofade to describe in some detail a locality called Huruma, which is several kilometers outside Eldoret. On Friday, Karim Khan, Ruto’s lead lawyer, asked the witness as series of questions about the various administrative units in the area and in the wider Uasin Gishu district of which Huruma and Eldoret are part of. This is because Khan had indicated a day earlier that there was a dispute between the defense and prosecution about the composition of Huruma.
Ruto was absent on Thursday because the judges had granted him permission to be in Kenya. He was present in court on Friday. His absence on Thursday, however, was the subject of a sharp exchange between Khan and senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg because the prosecution had filed an urgent application asking the judges to lift their excusal order and require Ruto to be in court.
Steynberg said this was based on information they had received that Ruto would be leading the Kenyan delegation to the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute that began on Wednesday in The Hague. Steynberg argued that the prosecution had asked the defense whether this was the case and because they did not receive a reply, the prosecution decided to make an application to the court.
Khan said that Ruto was not leading the Kenyan delegation at the ASP conference. He said they had filed a written response to that effect. Khan claimed the prosecution was relying on “backroom gossip” for information about the whereabouts of Ruto. Steynberg said that if the defense had been clear to the prosecution that Ruto was not leading the Kenyan delegation then they would not have filed the application. Sang’s lawyers also filed a response as did the lawyer for the victims.
Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said that in light of the written submissions there was no need for the judges to get involved because it was agreed by all that Ruto was still in Kenya.
When Khan concluded with Witness 535 Friday afternoon, Judge Eboe-Osuji said that the court would adjourn until January 13, 2014. Earlier in the day, the judges had been informed that Ruto’s defense team were not ready for two witnesses the prosecution said they could call after the testimony of Witness 535. Steynberg said another option was to call expert witnesses but they had indicated that they would only be available to testify next year. Judge Eboe-Osuji said that because there would not be any more witnesses after Witness 535, the court would adjourn once his testimony is concluded.
Just before the court concluded, Khan, on behalf of the defense teams, said he was wishing Omofade well in his future endeavours. Khan said he had worked with Omofade for some years as had other members of Ruto’s legal team, Shyamala Alagendra and Essa Faal. Alagendra and Faal had both worked in the Office of the Prosecutor before becoming defense lawyers. Khan said he respected Omofade and was offering his best wishes after learning from Steynberg that Friday was Omofade’s last day working for the Office of the Prosecutor.